Hello, Trade

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I had quite a delightful morning in World of Warcraft today. A school-age kid logged in, greeted we who lay dormant in the inter-city trade chat channel, and a spontaneous micro-community formed in a manner so remarkably different to anything I’ve seen before in this game. We chatted – not about the game itself, it must be said – about general topics such as how quiet it was, or what people were up to. I was happy to slip in some plugs for a gun I’m trying to sell on the Auction House, and could happily go about my business in Dalaran without unpleasant distractions.

As a player reaching US servers from a British PC, I have the advantage of utterly quiet mornings in which to gather veins and other materials for my professions. It’s a luxury not afforded to me by the busy, peak-time rush of Horde and Alliance players alike, all vying for the same resources. It also leaves the common chat channels  much less of a scrolling spam-fest for “LFG heroic daily” requests, or inane and sometimes racist banter. The server is far from barren at that time of day though, and it’s made me wonder if the crowds are really so different.

I wonder, for example, where the tipping point comes. When does a pleasant game with jovial and friendly chatter, as well as an honest use of the game’s facilities, descend into the noisy chaos we all choose to tolerate? Is it based on a critical mass of players, or does it take just one to mention Chuck Norris? If so is it always the same player, or does that role fall upon somebody new each day without them even being aware of it? Moreover, why can this cultural practice not scale up?